Joba Chamberlain's New York Yankees career started with great promise six years ago, but fans will always be left wondering what could have been. His tenure in the Bronx came to an end today, as the relief pitcher has reportedly signed a one-year deal with the Detroit Tigers.
Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports first reported the move:
Sources: #Tigers to sign Joba Chamberlain.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 12, 2013
ESPN's Buster Olney confirmed the specifics of the deal:
Chamberlain's deal with DET: 1-year, $2.5 million, plus performance bonuses.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 12, 2013
Chamberlain burst onto the scene in 2007 after being picked 41st overall by the Yankees in the 2006 amateur draft. The hard-throwing right-hander was selected as a starting pitcher, but his stuff proved to be so electric that the Yankees called him up during the 2007 season and used him out of the bullpen.
Is this a beneficial move for Chamberlain?
Chamberlain was a revelation and an instant hit with the fans. He posted a 0.38 ERA in 19 appearances for the Yanks during the regular season, while punching out 34 batters in 24 innings. The first sign of trouble came during that year's American League Division Series, though, as he struggled against the Cleveland Indians due in large part to an onslaught of midges.
Even after that incident, Chamberlain showed a great deal of potential the following season. The Yankees attempted to work him in as a starter, but they were extremely cautious, starting him in just 12 games and using him in another 30 in relief. This was essentially the start of Chamberlain's downfall, as the much-maligned "Joba Rules" prevented him from getting into any sort of rhythm.
The training wheels were taken off to some degree in 2009. Chamberlain started 31 games, but he went just 9-6 with a 4.75 ERA. Rather than attempting to salvage his career as a starter, the Yankees put him back in the bullpen. He hasn't been the same ever since.
Chamberlain was even more shaky out of the 'pen this past season, posting a 4.93 ERA and 1.74 WHIP. Even though he was never able to excel as a starter, there was hope for him as a dominant setup man or perhaps even the heir apparent at closer behind the legendary Mariano Rivera. Chamberlain is barely proving to be deserving of an MLB roster spot at this point, so it's fair to say that his career hasn't gone as expected.
With that said, a change of scenery is probably the best thing for him at this point. Chamberlain had some great moments as a Yankee, including his 2007 debut and a World Series championship in 2009, but he essentially had to forfeit individual success for the betterment of the team. Perhaps he would have been a fantastic starter, but the Yankees had a need in the bullpen, and Joba went along with it.
Even though he seemed to genuinely love being a Yankee, it may have been a toxic environment for him since he has to know that the organization mishandled him to a certain degree. Now the 28-year-old has an opportunity to start a new chapter in his career, and since he becomes a free agent at the conclusion of the season, he's basically auditioning for a job next year.
The move also makes plenty of sense from the Yankees' perspective since Chamberlain simply wasn't a good fit anymore. Rivera is gone, but David Robertson is clearly the closer in waiting at this point. Also, Joba was passed by the likes of Boone Logan, Shawn Kelley and Preston Claiborne in the bullpen pecking order, so his time in the Bronx was over before this signing.
New York had a big-time love affair with Joba back in 2007, but a lot has changed over the years. Chamberlain is nowhere near the pitcher he once was, and much of that has to do with the way he was utilized. Moving on was best for all parties involved, and perhaps Joba can thrive as a reclamation project in Detroit now that the bright lights of the Big Apple are no longer shining on him.
Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter